Using scale to build community

I am GetUp. For years now those words have represented the potential for connection and community an advocacy organization can strive for to me. Here’s why:  

GetUp is a multi-issue advocacy organization based in Australia. They use online organizing as on of their main ways of mobilizing communities to create change. I worked there for four years. In my second year working there – I got to the office to find a dismissive article had been written about us in a prominent news outlet calling our members astroturf.

Before the staff could get into the swing of figuring out messaging – we saw the comments. Hundreds of members of our community had already shared their stories in the comments page. They had written things like: “I’m a single mother, I am GetUp.” The members felt so much ownership over the organization that there was no need for staff to respond – our members had already discredited the article in a powerful and organic way.

How does this relate to campaigns at Mozilla? I think that our organization has huge potential for scale but also even more potential for growth in deep connections and building community. There are a lot of different models for this type of community organizing out there, but the three resources I find myself turning to repeatedly are:

-Rules for Radicals – Saul Alinsky

-Marshall Ganz – Personal Narrative training

-Rick Warren – Purpose Driven Church

I’ll be writing separate blog posts about Rules for Radicals and Marshall Ganz’s personal narrative training – for this post i’m focusing on Rick Warren’s work.

There is a great summary of the Purpose Driven Church’s lessons that apply to community organizing. I’ll be drawing on that model to try to define where I believe the Mozilla network is, and how we can not only build our scale but measure and ensure we’re investing in our community and that people are progressing through various leadership stages.

Rick Warren defines five stages of community building:

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 10.38.20 AM
These stages are defined as:


Your starting point, the hottest prospects

People who say: “That organization”


Everyone who shows up – believers and non – believers.

People who say: “This organization.”


Official members of the organization.

People who say: “Our Organization”


They act, they donate, they are invested in helping others learn. However they’re not involved in volunteer coordination.


Without these people the organization would be at a standstill.

The question is – if we applied this frame to Mozilla how would we define where people sat in the various stages? I’m going to do my best to outline what I think – I want to note though that these are only initial thoughts and I would very much like the feedback of people who have the benefit of many more years at Mozilla then I have.

Our community is:  

  • People who use the browser
  • People who have an interest in the internet – be it for personal or business use

Our crowd is:

  • People who signed petitions or signed up to our mailing list
  • People who like us on Facebook or Twitter

Our Congregation is:

  • Mozilla reps
  • People who are on
  • One off donors
  • People who have taken more than two actions online

Our Committed are:

  • Mozilla reps
  • People who run events – ie maker parties/privacy trainings
  • People who have taken more than 5 actions online
  • Monthly donors

Our core are:

  • Staff
  • Super Volunteers

How do we move people from one stage to the other?

Here are my initial thoughts about how we move people from one stage to the other at Mozilla.

Step 1: From the Community to the Crowd

We do this by running legislative campaigns (through net neutrality/data retention etc) and also through cultural campaigns (ie: Privacy challenges/etc)

Step 2: From the Crowd to the Congregation

By providing the crowd with ways to take more action. For example, make phone calls to representatives, take part in events and make one off donations.

Step 3: From the Congregation to the Committed

Ask people to take leadership roles for example: move from attending events to organizing events, running trainings. Also providing people with the opportunity to become monthly donors.

Step 4: From the Committed to the Crowd

People take on defined leadership roles with clear responsibilities and management on other volunteers. For example Mozilla Reps.

Some thoughts, observations and questions

With this definition – stage 1 and 2 (ie moving people from being a crowd to a congregation) seem to fall into the role of the advocacy team. While step 3 and 4 seem to be divided between Participation, Maker parties and the advocacy team that has a focus on leadership development.

I think it would be useful to approach our discussions around leadership development holistically on this point – to consider how we engage people and then move them through the ladder in order to highlight and leverage the different areas of expertise that we already have.

I also think it would be great if we could set clear goals for the number of people we want to engage at each step. This means knowing how many people we want to engage at each level and also how many people we’re aiming to transition into a deeper level every year. Having clear goals and the ability to measure those numbers will help us test our organizing assumptions and also identify if a particular layer is providing challenges or performing incredibly well.

When it comes to organizing, especially online organizing it’s easy to be focused on either scale or depth – but by creating a holistic plan to encompass both I think we can create a pretty incredible community.


One thought on “Using scale to build community

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